The Washington Post’s Inspired Life team asked readers to submit stories of a time a stranger performed an act so unexpectedly kind that it stayed with them. Here are some of the most poignant ones, in honor of World Kindness Day today.
About a week ago, I moved from our five-bedroom house into an apartment in an adult living community. Somehow, I managed to whittle down our family’sbelongings so they fit in my small bedroom-plus-den apartment.
But boxes were the main furnishings at first. I badly mangled my knee last year and wearing a brace and using a walker made it very difficult to move things around.
Next Day Blinds sent out a salesperson to help me select and measure for blinds. She couldn’t help but notice my problems unpacking. Before leaving, she said, “I’m free Saturday. Why don’t I come out and help?”
And she did. My blinds were installed on a Tuesday and on Saturday, she returned. Like a whirlwind, she got my living room looking like a real living room. She moved furniture, hung pictures and helped me find places for other furnishings. She even went to Target and bought me some hangers and other small items, and wouldn’t let me reimburse her.
It feels so good to know I can have people over now without being embarrassed.
I have been the recipient of many acts of random kindness in my life. They challenge me to always be grateful and to pass on the kindnesses.
Lucy Sotar, 76, Arlington, Va.
My kindergartner, Stig, has a flower that he planted by the front stairs of our house that was sadly picked twice in a row by someone who was careless or mean or too young to know better.
It really broke his heart because each time it started to regrow, he’d watch its progress excitedly, only to come home and find it picked right after it bloomed.
I was fuming with rage inside that anyone could be that mean-spirited, and that I would have to try to find a way to soothe him over something we couldn’t fix.
So when we saw that it was about to bloom a third time about a week ago, I decided to make a little sign: “Please don’t pick this flower! It belongs to a little boy who loves it and takes care of it. Thanks!”
It was a Saturday morning when my husband opened the front door to find a book and a card addressed “For the little boy who takes care of the flower” neatly tied with twine.
Inside the card was a message from a neighbor we didn’t know saying that she remembered the book from her childhood and thought Stig would like it, too. The story was about a man who brings joy to a city with a single potted flower. Perfect.
I can’t stop smiling that this one little orange flower has gone out and inspired multiplying joy and kindness.
Jody Pratt, 43, Washington
About 20 years ago, when I was a single mother in San Jose, I was running a few minutes behind schedule to drop my toddler off at child care and get to work when the light rail train showed up before I could buy a ticket.
Clutching my daughter in one arm and a diaper bag in the other, I made a dash for the train, hoping no one would be checking for tickets that day. Boarding the car, I found myself in the midst of a throng of convention-goers.
To my chagrin, an officer got on at the next stop and asked for tickets. He went down one side of the car, and Inervously thought about how much trouble I’d be in if he asked me for a ticket.
Just then, a young man seated in front of me (from who knows where) showed the officer his ticket and then slipped it to me when the officer had his back to us. I tried not to cry with gratitude.
Later, I overheard the convention-goer whisper to his friends that he saw me running for the train with the baby with no time to buy a ticket. I thanked him profusely before I got off.
Jessica Savin, 49, Clovis, Calif.
I was at the drugstore to buy groceries for my family recently. To my dismay, when I got to the checkout counter, my debit card was declined.
Sheepishly, I took out my two boxes of garbage bags and asked her how much the bill would be without them. Before the clerk even had a chance to remove the items, a very pleasant woman behind me said, “No, I will pay for them,” and gave me $20 to cover them.
Again I tried my card, hoping there would be enough in my account this time, and again it did not work, so I put back my coffee creamer. Again, the woman spoke up and said: “I’ll pay for that, too.”
I was very embarrassed at this point and prayed my card would work to cover the rest of my bill. Again, it was declined. I apologized to the line that had formed, thanked the women who had helped me and told the clerk that I would need to put my order back.
The woman who had helped the previous two times spoke up and said: “Here is my credit card. I’ve been there before.”
I was totally flabbergasted! My entire bill came to $95, and she paid the entire bill.
I have never been on the receiving end of this amount of generosity. For those who believe there is little good left in the world, I beg to differ because one generous stranger can truly make a difference.
Karin Heimel-Heck, 51, Dover, Pa.
Lugging my suitcase across Ottawa’s airport in 2012, the handle snapped off and the suitcase fell to the floor. I tried lifting the case and my tote landed on the floor, too.
I was sure I would I miss my flight when a man appeared at my side. He had red hair, blue eyes and looked about 25. “Let me help,” he said smiling. His smile was so welcoming that I smiled back.
He tossed my suitcase over his left shoulder, put the tote bag on his right and the handle in his pocket and said, “Where to?”
“Gate 27,” I said, stunned.
He grabbed his bag and we were off.
At the gate, my was flight was delayed. Relieved, I reached for the suitcase, but he said, “I’ll ask about tape for the handle.”
He returned saying the agent would check with maintenance for help. Surprisingly, the agent returned with duct tape, and the man taped the handle to the suitcase.
Boarding started, and it dawned on me that he may not have been on the same flight. “Is this your flight?” I asked. “No, my flight’s Gate 12,” he responded.
Gate 12 was at the opposite end of the airport. I felt terrible, but he reassured me. “Don’t worry, I’ll make it,” he said.
My boarding group was called, so I give him a grateful hug, “Thanks.”
“My pleasure,” he replied.
Boarding pass scanned, I turned back and we waved to each other. As the plane pulled back from the gate, I realized I never got his name.
Frances Baldwin, 56, Chevy Chase
When I was an exchange student in Paris, age 19, I was pickpocketed my first night there and my wallet was stolen.
In the wallet was my driver’s license, money and photos — among them my favorite photo of my father, who died when I was 13, and my favorite photo of my sister, who died when I was 16.
The pickpocketer had obviously taken the money and thrown my wallet in a trash can in the metro station.
But some kind Parisian saw my wallet in the trash and also the photos in there. I wonder if they somehow sensed how precious these images were to the owner of the wallet.
This person turned the wallet in to the American Embassy, and the embassy mailed it back to the U.S. My photos and driver’s license were waiting for me when I returned home. I cried then, and I tear up again now, realizing that a total stranger took time out of their day to do a favor for a person they would never meet, or who could never thank them.
Sharon Loy, 48, Sedona, Ariz.
One day a person from my school went around just saying good things about people they passed in the hall.
When he said “you are cool” to me and my friend right before class, it made me feel appreciated and made the class a lot more fun, all because of one compliment given to me by someone I barely knew.
I think this small, tiny act made such a big difference because no one had ever done that before and it was such a surprise to me. I felt like I should say the same thing to someone else soon.
Right after he said it, I replied and said the same thing about him. My friend and I both said it made us feel so special and appreciated. When we got to class, we were smiling and it seemed like we didn’t have a care in the world, but also like we were happy to be there, which is a rarity, but never mind that.
When we went to our seats and began class, I was happy. I was actually happy to be at school and in class. All because of one comment, one simple comment.